Azerbaijan is following Turkey’s Syria playbook in seeking to erase the cultural and religious identity of areas recently captured in the disputed Nagorno- Karabakh region, Armenian news outlet Massis Post said on Thursday.
In September, Azerbaijan launched a successful military offensive against pro-Armenia forces in Nagorno- Karabakh, regaining control of much of the territory, including the second largest settlement of Shusha.
In a recent visit to the region, Azeri President İlham Aliyev ordered the destruction of “historical inscriptions on the Armenian churches, calling them fake”, the Massis Post said.
Turkey provided crucial military support to Azerbaijan during the conflict. And the Azeri presence in Nagorno-Karabakh has come to closely resemble the Turkish occupation of the predominantly Kurdish region of Afrin in Syria, the news outlet said.
Turkey took control of Afrin in March 2018 after a cross-border incursion against Kurdish-led forces known as the People’s Protection Units (YPG).
The region is now dominated by Turkish-backed Syrian militia groups, which are accused by the United Nations of atrocities including looting, extortion, and desecration of cultural sites.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) monitoring group, more than 2,500 Syrian militants were also deployed by Turkey to fight alongside the Azeri armed forces in Nagorno- Karabakh.
“One could have thought the only goal of sending the Syrian mercenaries to Nagorno-Karabakh was to instruct the Azerbaijanis in the ways of committing war crimes,” Massis Post said.
Azerbaijan now aims to “make it impossible for the uprooted people to return to their homeland,” the Armenian news outlet said.
“Ankara has made every effort to achieve this in Syria. Baku must not be allowed to do the same in Armenia.”